Books

Books
February 28, 2019
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The business of creating things you love most times is a neatly-wrapped gift of freedom, self-direction, and unparalleled fulfillment. But it can also be a ball of fear in your throat, the hot air of disappointment around your neck, a clamp putting pressure at your temples.

Sometimes you encounter losses and curveballs in the craft that knock the wind out of you. You sit with your laptop in front of a blank wall and nothing fires up. Your creative motherboard is fried; your story-telling muscles are in sloth mode; you are wiped. Trying to give words beautiful sequences feels like someone is performing a Heimlich maneuver on you on an empty stomach.

Things are bleak, I am blue.

The joy of telling a story is a faraway voice coasting on the wind, reaching me in whispers. I know it’s there, but I can’t feel it. And the work I produce without it is mangled. On such days I just want to drink my tea and read my books and for no one to remind me that it’s Thursday. That my story has flat-lined with zero chance of resuscitation and I have to ghost.

Deadline: 1 Me: 0

Sigh.

This week’s story for Biker’s Island is not ready. So I leave you with these book reviews. If you can, pick up the recommended reads. I reckon they’ll be worthwhile.

Recommended Read: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Published in 2018, it is Nigerian-born Akwaeke’s debut autobiographical novel – meaning it’s her first, and it’s rooted in real-life experiences. It’s written from the point of view of multiple identities in her mind, multiple spirit selves who walk us through her life from childhood till present. Until I read about it online I thought it was fiction. It has that otherworldly bizarreness that you can expect from Nigerian works. At first, I thought the subject was schizophrenia, what with all the multiple personalities. Everything lined up, but the second half of the book takes several different turns which keeps things interesting. It’s a well-written book, with easy flow which makes for a fast, entertaining read. I highly recommend it.

Everything Under by Daisy Johnson⭐⭐⭐

Set in the Oxford Canals of England, Everything Under is a peculiar story, a join-the-dots puzzle between the characters. There is a tumultuous relationship between mother and daughter. The mother is now old, she forgets things, the narrator alludes that she has a problem with alcohol and she is depressed. She is haunted by a life not well-lived in which she abandoned two children; one when she was little, and the other when she was sixteen years old. Later, their lives intersect in a spectacularly taboo way which is what the story is all about. The narrator is a woman who is now a lexicographer (a person who compiles dictionaries) so there’s a lot of vocabulary to get through. On top of that, the story is about the woman growing up with her mother as a girl, where they lived in solitude and made up their own secret language. So there’s also made up words to get through, which makes the flow a bit clunky. Therefore it is a slow read. There are some big reveals, but they’re not enough to make you gasp. Some of them even come off as improbable but oh well. It’s not for everyone.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh ⭐⭐⭐

It is, as it suggests, about a young woman on a quest to sleep and do nothing else for a year. Possibly because she is paralyzed with grief, possibly because she is privileged and can afford it or possibly because she is depressed. The narrator does not clear up the fog on that one.  On this mission, she is aided by lots of different prescription drugs and a questionable shrink. It starts out well but becomes more and more preposterous as you read on. The narrator goes into such deep details about the drugs that I’m surprised it didn’t come with a trigger warning. It’s a slow burn without any significant takeaways for me. It has subplots that almost redeem it but don’t. Still, it’s an easy read and if you’re suffering a particular blandness in life you’d like to get away from, it is almost relatable.

Recommended Read: This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Phillips ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is Busy Phillips’ memoir. You might know her from Cougartown, she played Laurie. She tells the story of her life and keeps it trim and interesting. She talks about the frustrations of auditioning in Hollywood and failing countless times, her work product and ideas on a manuscript being stolen from her and other difficulties of being a working mom. She touches on her girlhood on a matter of rape that followed her into adulthood and comes out to mess with her every once in a while as those things do. She talks about post-partum depression, getting little help from her husband as regards childcare and how that strained her marriage. As well as some unfortunate financial decisions that rendered her broke.

Throughout the narration, her voice remains authentic. You don’t get the sense that she’s being disingenuous, or trying to cast herself in a certain light. So even though she seems like an unreachable Hollywood celebrity, she is a woman first and her story is relatable. It’s a fast, easy, entertaining, eye-opening and insightful read. Worth the time.

My current read: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. 

I picked it up because it had great reviews and it made several lists for the best fiction books of 2018. It’s too early to call it, but so far so good.

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About author

Wanjiru Ndung'u

Wanjiru Ndung'u is a Published Poet and Founder of The Hooting Owl. She is an irretrievable, tea-loving nightowl with an ardor for matters of Personal Development.

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